Time marches on and we how have a historic West Coast auction market closing shop. Shasta Livestock Auction is closing shop and having their last sale Feb. 12. They say they will have a good string of cattle for the final sale. Light calves should be worth a lot now that California has finally received rain and snow from a big storm. I hope it’s not too late for turnout. But if you’re going to ranch, you’ve got to take what Mother Nature gives you.

I spoke with Ellington Peek, the owner, who is 92 years young. He said the yards are for sale, but they will continue to run Western Video Market with Johnny Rodgers. He said running the video is much less headache than running an auction yard.

He said that the California environmental crowd was telling him how many cattle they could pen up for a sale, and cited runoff and drainage problems. I suppose the environmental agency considers the market as a Confined Animal Feeding Operation and probably wanted him to put a runoff lagoon on the place. Ellington built the barn in 1965 when that kind of thing wasn’t an issue. Ellington and his family have run it the entire time.

The auction market is in a prime location right next to I-5, a great location. He said at one time he thought of putting in a truck stop. They assume someone will buy it for the real estate development value. It’s perplexing that the Peek family would close the business just before the spring run in California.

Ellington also remembered my grandfather, Nelson Crow, back when he was a kid, and then working with my dad, Dick, and now me. We’ll sure miss the Shasta market. They have been a customer of ours since the beginning. Everyone in the West knows the legendary Ellington, as he kept many in the cattle business.

Cattle markets are moving higher and packers are playing a bit of a cat-and-mouse game with February futures trading at $115.77 and the boxed beef cutout value now at a high of $235 on Choice. Cattle feeders have decided to dig in a bit on the negotiated cash trade. Feeders were able to get $114 Wednesday. The new Texas Cash Pool sold about 700 head Tuesday at $113.22, a dollar higher than the prior week; they had four bids. Feeders are holding out for $115.

The Southern feeders are still working to sell more cattle on the negotiated cash market. Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico sold 15.5 percent of their cattle on the cash market and Kansas feeders traded only 12.6 percent on the cash market; they slipped a bit last week.

The USDA Cattle inventory came out last week and said the total inventory was down just two tenths of a percent from last year. the overall cow herd was estimated at 40.598 million head. The calf crop for 2020 was down 664,000 head to 35.136 million head.

The Daily Livestock Report (DLR) pointed out  “The ratio of the calf crop to the cow herd on Jan. 1 is now estimated at 82.7 percent for 2019 and 86.4 for 2020, some of the lowest calving ratios on record, and the lowest since 2013. It’s unusual to see such low productivity for two consecutive years. So even as the cow herd declined only modestly, fewer calves were produced last year, and this will continue to limit cattle supplies in the second half of 2021 and in 2022.”

Beef replacement heifers were higher by 4,000 head at 5,812.6 million head. Cow slaughter was 2.5 percent higher than a year ago and the beef cow herd was down .06 percent at 31,158 million head. The DLR thinks the ratio of cow slaughter to the overall inventory will be 15.9 percent compared to 15.5 percent for 2020. So, it appears that we’re trending down to a smaller national beef cow herd.

Feeder cattle markets are at the high end of the trading range. March feeders were at $139.50 on the board, which is remarkable since corn jumped over $5.50 a bushel, putting cost of gain for feedlots well over a dollar. Light calves have been in high demand as stocker operations prepare for spring. Moisture is still light in most areas and we still need to pray for spring rain. — PETE CROW

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